Author(s): Russell Hoban
Somewhere in the Arctic Circle, Sixteen-Face John, a shaman, learns that his first child, a soonchild, cannot hear the World Songs from her mother's womb. The World Songs are what inspire all newborns to come out into the world, and John must find them for her. But how? The answer takes him through many lifetimes and many shape-shifts, as well as encounters with beasts, demons and a mysterious benevolent owl spirit, Ukpika, who is linked to John's past...
One of the side-benefits of having children is that you get to read their books. For bedtime story, we have just finished Soonchild by Russell Hoban. Sixteen-face John, an Inuit shaman (or ex-shaman; he has long neglected his shamanising for television and ‘coca-cola’) has to put aside his sixteen buffering faces and encounter his deepest fears (even Yiwok the World-Swallower) as he searches for the lost ‘World Songs’ that will make the world fascinating enough to entice his daughter to be born. Hoban’s writing is, as always, precise and resonant, and this deep (but lightly-written) quest for meaning and revivification gave us (aged 10, 12 and 48) plenty to think about and discuss. Alexis Deacon’s illustrations are exquisite and chilling. - Thomas
Russell Hoban is the author of many acclaimed novels for grown-ups, including Turtle Diary and Riddley Walker. He once described himself as "an addict to writing" and wrote more than 50 books for children, including such classics as Bedtime for Frances, How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen and The Sea-Thing Child. Born in Pennsylvania in 1925, he moved to London in 1969, where he lived until his death in 2011.